Study: Fracking sites may be too close to water supplies

August 18, 2014

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has helped the oil and gas industry locate and exploit sources of energy that were never before thought to be useable. This technique has been a major contributor in the domestic energy boom that has held down prices at the pump and helped support a growing American manufacturing renaissance. And yet, some are worried that, if done improperly, fracking poses a risk to the environment.

Specifically, they are worried about water supplies.

A recent study conducted by Stanford University scientists concluded that this may not be an irrational fear. The researchers examined fracking operations at two Wyoming geological formations and found that, in both cases, drilling occurred at shallow depths just below sources of drinking water.

This is a concern because the process of fracking requires the use of chemicals that could be harmful if they ever made their way into water supplies.  

"Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel and millions of gallons of fluids containing numerous inorganic and organic additives were injected directly into these two formations during hundreds of stimulation events," the researchers concluded.

However, they added that there was no sign that any contamination actually occurred. Meanwhile, industry officials contended that the drilling sites were still separated from water sources by layers of impenetrable rock.

The researchers responded by saying that the layers may be more permeable than people think, especially over time. They then concluded that while fracking may continue, it is crucial for there to be additional monitoring to ensure that water supplies are not threatened. Environmental consultants can help ensure that this is the case.